After reading Revolutionary Road last summer I felt great interest in reading more of Richard Yates’ startling novels. However, as these things go, it has taken me almost a year to read The Easter Parade, my second of his books.
Just like Revolutionary Road, The Easter Parade sucks you into the hyper-realistic world of a dysfunctional family at mid-century. Sisters Sarah and Emily Grimes grow up with their painfully desperate single mother, who has a drinking problem that escalates as her daughters grow up and away from her. While Sarah marries and starts a family, Emily goes to college and afterwards begins work at an advertising agency. She dates a succession of men and completely distances herself from both her mother and her sister Sarah, losing herself in her relationships, until she is forced to confront the disastrous mess they’ve all made of their lives.
Reading Yates is uncomfortable yet so utterly enthralling. His characters are us and they are our relatives, friends and neighbors so reading about their empty and wretched lives is alarming. Are we all doomed to live meaningless lives full of emotional coldness, unable to face our disappointments and accept that life is not always about big moments, that no one is perfect? Yes, these thoughts really did go through my head while reading this book! And that is part of the beauty of Yates – he really makes you confront the sadness and the hopeless moments we all face. Depressing and humbling, yes, but also invigorating because the truth of it is that everyone can find their own way to rise above the mundanity while acknowledging that our day to day life IS our real life – there’s no ‘someday’. And we also must find a way to connect with those around us in an authentic way.
So, this is my take on Yates! His books are hard to read and agonizing to ponder and, honestly, not full of much hope. But I take them as a manual on ‘how not to live my life’ while enjoying his straight forward writing style and the mid-century settings.
After reading The Easter Parade I did buy two more of his novels – Cold Spring Harbor and Young Hearts Crying – and I’m interested to see if my thoughts about his writing stay the same after reading them.
Have you read Richard Yates?
Also, I apologize for the theme changes. I am constantly looking for something that I can’t find in the themes available to me, but this one will stay for the time being.
Have a non-Richard-Yates-like weekend!